New numbers released on Tuesday showed that statewide California urban residents reduced their water use by 7.6% in June compared to June 2020, the base year.
It is still below the 15% target set by Governor Gavin Newsom last July. But that’s a big jump from May’s 3.1% savings compared to May 2020. And it’s a major change from March and April, when residents turned on their lawn sprinklers during an unusually dry spring, effectively increasing the statewide water use of 18.7% and 17.8% compared to those months two years ago.
“The numbers are an improvement to say the least,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chairman of the State Council for Water Control, which released the monthly data Tuesday. “We saw an increase in usage in March and April and here in June we are starting to see a real response.”
Northern California continued to move closer to Newsom’s target, with the Bay Area saving 12.6% in June compared to June 2020 – the largest savings of any region in California – while the South Coast area , which includes the counties of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego, reduced by 5.9%.
In the Bay Area, the Marin Municipal Utility District reduced its water use by 25.3% while San Jose Water Company users reduced their own by 17.5%, followed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District (15%). , Alameda County Water District (13.2%), the East Bay Municipal Utility District (12.2%), the Contra Costa Water District (11.2%) and the San Francisco PUC (5.7%).
Local water agencies said on Tuesday that the water saved will now help if the drought drags into the fourth year.
“Our residents and businesses are aware of their water use, are repairing leaks and exchanging their lawns for drought tolerant gardens,” said Doug Linney, chairman of the East Bay Municipal Utility board. District, which supplies water to 1.5 million people in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. “These actions lead to long-term savings, which prepare us in case the next year is dry, and help us respond to a climate that is changing before our eyes.”
On May 23, Newsom told leaders of the state’s largest water agencies that the delay in conservation was a “black eye” as the state struggled with shrinking reservoirs and disappearing groundwater.
At the time, he said his office would be monitoring the situation over the next 60 days and told agencies to step up awareness and education efforts to communicate the urgency of the crisis to the public. A few weeks later, the state water authority required most cities and water districts to limit outdoor irrigation to two days a week and ban the irrigation of “non-functional grass lawns” or grass in office parks and industrial sites, but not in schools. parks or golf courses.
Esquivel said these measures underlie some of the improved retention numbers now.
Newsom met again on Friday with leaders from local water agencies across the state. Since its request for voluntary savings of 15% a year ago, the state has accumulated a long way to go, having reduced urban water use over the past year by just 2.7%.
So far, Newsom hasn’t told the water board to move to mandatory statewide targets with fines for agencies that fall short, as Governor Jerry Brown did in 2015 during the state’s latest drought. But he continues to meet local water leaders and is watching closely, Esquivel said.
“It’s keeping all those options open,” Esquivel said. “The options are on the table. We are moving in the right direction “.
Many water agencies oppose mandatory state targets. Some say they have ample local supplies, having made major investments in new reservoirs, groundwater projects or, in the case of San Diego, which used 4.1% more water this June than in 2020, building a plant. of desalination.Meanwhile, the light rain that sporadically wet the Bay Area and much of Northern California on Monday may have helped reduce fire risk for a few days, but did not dent the drought. Most places received a hundredth of an inch of measurable rain – about the thickness of two sheets of paper – if any.
After three consecutive drought years, 97 percent of the state was in severe drought and 59 percent in extreme drought on Thursday, the third and fourth most severe of five drought categories, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal report. weekly.
The state’s largest reservoir, Shasta, near Redding, was only 37 percent full on Tuesday. Its second largest, Oroville, in Butte County, was 41% full.
Some urban residents complain about conservation as agriculture is responsible for 80% of the water used by Californians. But Esquivel said that when local areas save, they often preserve local supplies in reservoirs and aquifers. And he noted that this year farmers have seen major reductions in water use with near-zero deliveries from the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project and new state rules that reduce how far they can deviate from streams and rivers.
“Ag is cutting her hair like everyone else,” she said. “This is a social challenge we are facing with climate change and these droughts. We have never seen conditions like this. ”
Water Conservation in California
Water consumption of the main agencies in June, compared to June 2020:
• Santa Clara Valley Water District: -15%
• San Jose Water Company: – 17.5%
• East Bay Municipal Services District: -12.2%
• Contra Costa Water District: -11.2%
• PUC of San Francisco: – 5.7%
• Alameda County Water District: -13.2%
• Marin Municipal Utility District: -25.3%
• City of Sacramento: -11.3%
• Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy: -7.5%
• City of San Diego: + 4.1%